'Pit bull' advocates to mark change to vicious dog law

Rep. Barbara Sears
Rep. Barbara Sears

Best Friends Animal Society will join the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and the Lucas County Pit Crew in celebrating the upcoming change to Ohio's vicious dog law by presenting a Neighborhood Pit Bull Day.

The event will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at Homecoming Park, 7807 Angola Rd., Holland. Free rabies shots and microchips for "pit bull"-type dogs will be available on a first-come, first-served basis while supplies last. Twenty-eight vouchers for free spay/neuter through Humane Ohio will be available, funded by a grant from Best Friends.

Forty free collars and leashes will be given to dog owners, and a trainer will be on hand to answer behavior questions. All other breeds will be vaccinated and microchipped for $10.

The event is a celebration of Ohio House Bill 14, which passed through the legislature and was signed by Gov. John Kasich earlier this year. The bill, which removes "pit bulls" from the state's definition of vicious dogs, goes into effect on Sunday.

The event will conclude with an 11:15 a.m. award ceremony recognizing Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) for her sponsorship of House Bill 14 and her dedication to removing the breed-discriminatory designation from Ohio's law.

The new law also strengthens the state's dangerous dog laws so that they target reckless owners and dangerous dogs of all breeds based on behavior, not breed.

"The event is to recognize Barb Sears' efforts in improving public safety for all of us regarding all dog breeds," said Jean Keating, co-founder of the Lucas County Pit Crew. "It's not really just about 'pit bulls,' it's about improving safety in our community from all dangerous dogs."

Katie Bray Barnett, a legislative assistant from Best Friends, will be on hand and will help present the award to Representative Sears, said Ms. Keating said.

Also on Saturday, Toledo's PET Bull Project is offering the first in a series of free dog training sessions. Designed to teach beginning obedience and commands, it will run from 2 to 4 p.m. at Navarre Park, 1498 Navarre Ave. The sessions aim to help owners learn the basics, the responsibilities, and the fun of pet ownership.

Started as a group of pet owners and trainers committed to preventing animal cruelty, including dog fighting, the PET Bull Project focuses on "pit bulls" but also encourages responsible pet ownership of all breeds. The "PET" in the group's name stands for Prevention, Education and Training.

"We believe that the best way to change the attitudes toward pit bulls is through education of our youth," said Cindy Reinsel, the group's founder and president. "Many have been exposed to dog fighting and we use our classes and training to help them understand that animal cruelty is wrong and that there are many joys to responsible pet ownership."

PET Bull Project is not a rescue but works in conjunction with many rescue groups. Free training classes will be held monthly through October.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.